French "Photograffeur" JR Wins TED Prize

Posted by David Ozanich — 20 Oct 2010

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The California lecture series TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) announced it is giving its 6th annual prize of $100,000 to the street artist JR - “a shadowy figure who has made a name for himself by plastering colossal photographs in downtrodden neighborhoods around the world. The images usually extol local residents, to whom he has become a Robin Hood-like hero.”

JR likes to go by the designation “photograffeur” since graffeur is French for “graffiti artist.”

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Other winners have included Bill Clinton, Bono, and Jamie Oliver (???). The winner also gets to make a “wish” to raise funds for a “humanitarian mission” to which fellow TED-devotees will invariably send donations.

Some more from the Times:

Reached by telephone on Wednesday morning on a bus in Shanghai, where [JR] was headed to work on a largely unauthorized photo-pasting project to draw attention to the city’s demolition of historic neighborhoods, J R said that he had learned of the prize only two weeks ago and that he had not yet had time to think of a wish.


But he said that it would undoubtedly involve his kind of guerrilla art, which he has been creating with the help of volunteers in slums in Brazil, Cambodia and Kenya — where the outsize photographs, printed on waterproof vinyl, doubled as new roofs for ramshackle houses. “I’m kind of stunned,” he said of the prize. “I’ve never applied for an award in my life and didn’t know that somebody had nominated me for this.”

Being reached by the New York Times while you are on a bus in Shanghai is rather amazing, don’t you think? One more bit:

Amy Novogratz, the director of the prize, said that picking an artist like JR — he is 27 and fiercely protective of his anonymity, identifying himself only by his initials — was an unusual choice but that the prize committee felt that his work could “catalyze the whole TED community” to support an art-centered philanthropic project, which will be announced at the organization’s next conference in March.

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The whole article is worth a read. They also have a slide show of his work. I've also posted a few examples.

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